Local elections in Mali marked by low voter turnout

A man votes in local elections in Bamako

Low voter turnout marked the municipal polls in Mali’s first elections since 2013.

Voters were electing 12,000 councilors across the West African country, as the government grapples with implement a floundering peace deal and warding off a jihadist threat in the north.

“We began at 8am. Up to now we have not had any incidents. Few people came. It is hoped that in the afternoon it will be better. At the moment there haven’t been a lot of incidents. It is slow, it is a little quiet, “said Ali Kone an election official.

“Although there are problems in the north, we hope that this is resolved soon. With the elections, we believe that there will be improvements, “said Ibrahima Sow, a voter.

A number of opposition parties and some armed groups involved in the UN- led peace process boycotted the elections therefore highlighting deep divisions that still plague Mali, three years after civil war.

The polls which were held two years later than scheduled, coincided with the first anniversary of the November 2015 terror attack at a hotel in the capital Bamako that left 20 people dead.

According to Reuters, voting was cancelled in districts around Timbuktu after ballot boxes were burned by unidentified armed men, residents and officials said.

Kidal which is the stronghold of former rebels of the Coordination of Movement of Azawad (CMA), also witnessed voter boycott.

The vote was also cancelled in numerous villages in the neighbouring Gao region.

Opposition candidate Saibou Barry was kidnapped Saturday morning in the central town of Koro with his party saying his vehicle was found burned and he had been driven to “an unknown destination.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement late on Saturday asking the Malian government to “pursue a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders to defuse tensions that may arise before and after the poll”